01 April 2010
Methodist President rejoices in the here and now this Easter
In his Easter message, Revd David Gamble, President of the
Methodist Conference, has called on Methodists to celebrate God's
action in the here and now.
David stressed the Church's responsibility to tell good news stories, witnessing to God's love in action in the lives of individuals and communities in 21st century Britain and all around the world.
He spoke of how the most exciting stories of the Methodist faith lie not just in the past, but in contemporary Church life. "There are some impressive and important stories to be told," he said. "Not of how things used to be. Not of our Church's former greatness. Not of our happy memories. But of God's love in action in the lives of people here and now. The stories come from all over the place. And it is important we share them."
The full text of the message follows:
"I am writing this in York, during a visit to the York and Hull District where I spent the first thirteen years of my ministry, from 1974 to 1987, first in Tadcaster and then in York itself. It has been an amazing and often very moving few days. Among other things, on the Sunday morning I preached at the sung Eucharist at York Minster. In the evening I revisited Clowes Memorial Church in Hull West Circuit, where I preached my first ever sermon in January 1966. Needless to say, I used a different sermon this time round - though I didn't meet anyone who claimed to remember my earlier one!
"On the Tuesday I revisited Hull University, where I studied Law from 1965 to 1968. I was shown round the much enlarged University campus and met with the Director and Assistant Director of the Law School and then the Vice-Chancellor. We talked about the University as it is now and its vision for the future. As we arrived at the University and parked the car, I noticed someone standing close to where we were parking, as if making sure we weren't parking in the wrong space. I got out of the car and the person spoke my name. It was someone who'd been a Hull student (and a MethSoc member) at the same time as I was there, who had seen from the local paper that I was due to be visiting, and wanted to come and say hello. After 42 years! A very special moment.
"Back in York we drove round the city walls, one of York's many well-known attractions. They are particularly attractive at this time of the year, as the daffodils begin to bloom. By Easter Day, and given a bit more sunshine, the grass slopes around the walls will be a sea of yellow.
"As I enjoyed the sight of the daffodils and reflected on my years spent in and near York, I remembered one or two funeral services I had taken at this time of year. I had sometimes spoken of the emerging daffodils as signs of new life outside the city wall - and suggested that this was very close to what this time of Holy Week and Easter is about. New life, outside the city wall. Echoes here of the first verse of the hymn 'There is a green hill far away'.
"I also recollected that I was a minister in York at the time David Jenkins became Bishop of Durham and at the time of the controversy when he was quoted as describing the story of the resurrection as 'a conjuring trick with bones.' What he had actually said was that it had to be 'more than a conjuring trick with bones'. And, rather more importantly, he'd suggested that the real proof and point of the resurrection was not about the precise details of what happened with the bones of Jesus 2000 years ago. What really mattered was our experience of the risen Lord now. That is why in our Easter liturgies we acclaim 'He is risen', not just 'He did rise'. The heart of the gospel is about now, not long ago and far away.
"This year's lectionary gospel has been Luke, in many ways my favourite gospel. The writer of Luke often emphasises the 'nowness' (if there is such a word) of God's action in Jesus. So, for example, on the day at the beginning of his ministry when he went to his local synagogue and read from the scroll of Isaiah he then said 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing' (Luke 4.21). Here and now.
"In many ways, the challenge facing us as a church today is precisely about witnessing to God's love in action here and now. Obviously that is partly about engaging with the story of what happened 2000 years ago in Palestine. But it is also about witnessing to God's love in action here and now in the lives of individuals and groups and communities in 21st century Britain and all around the world.
"Each year I have heard Presidents and Vice-Presidents returning from their travels, telling stories of some of the people they have met and things they have seen on their visits. They have sounded excited, moved and energised by what they have experienced. Now that I am three quarters of the way through my year of such visits I know exactly why. There are some impressive and important stories to be told. Not of how things used to be. Not of our church's former greatness. Not of our happy memories. But of God's love in action in the lives of people here and now. The stories come from all over the place. And it is important we share them.
"My March visit to the York and Hull District was a great chance for me to revisit old haunts and to meet people from my past. But it was an even greater chance to be reminded of the signs of new life happening now - outside the city walls of York, but also in individuals, churches and communities all over the world.
"The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia!"